Church recognises key role of volunteers across Norfolk
This Volunteer’s Week (1-7 June), The Salvation Army recognises the key role volunteers play in its work to support those in need across Norfolk as well as highlighting the personal benefits of volunteering.
Volunteers are the vital backbone of The Salvation Army’s outreach and community work, which tackles a diverse range of issues in response to local need, from homelessness to poverty, isolation to unemployment. Local Salvation Army volunteers join a movement mobilised in 131 countries worldwide working to transform lives and communities.
The church and charity has 15 church and community centres across Norfolk, a drop-in-centre for people experiencing homelessness in Norwich, a care home for older people in North Walsham and a network of drivers and chaperones on standby to escort victims of modern slavery to a place of safety.
Erica, 64, is a church member and volunteer at Sheringham Salvation Army. After attending The Salvation Army in the USA, she sought out The Salvation Army in Sheringham when she moved back to the UK following the break-up of her marriage. She remembers finding a ‘new family’: “They picked me up and volunteering helped me get to know new people.”
One of the activities Erica supports as a volunteer is Solo Link - a network for people who live alone.
The group meets every other Saturday at The Salvation Army for tea, coffee and biscuits, to catch up and organise group activities. Members from the group have arranged cinema trips, meals out for breakfast and lunch, played pitch and putt, visited Cromer Pier and been on holiday together.
Erica says: “I know what it’s like to live on your own. You’re surrounded by ‘happy couples’ and find it hard to find affordable food, holidays and events that aren’t catering for couples or families.”
It’s clear that Erica has used her own experiences to help others. She has developed a Solo Link address book with people’s interests listed so that if a member wants to do something but doesn’t want to do it alone, such as shopping, going for a walk or visiting a coffee shop, they can contact another group member to see if they are free.
Erica adds: “Good friendships have been made and they help each other if someone is sick or needs a ride to a hospital appointment.
“They all inspire me with their bravery at making the most of their lives even though it can be extremely hard living on your own, especially in later life.”
Research from nfpSynergy’s latest Charity Awareness Monitor has shown more than one fifth (22 per cent) of the British public has volunteered in the last three months. Key motivators for volunteering include a desire to help local community and gain work experience to support career development.*
The Salvation Army is encouraging people from all walks of life to consider how volunteering can also support wellbeing. For Erica, there were social benefits while others have built up their confidence or tackled mental health issues.
Claire Bonham is The Salvation Army’s Volunteer Development Manager. As she works with local Salvation Army leaders across the UK to support around 12,000 frontline volunteers, she is inspired to hear about the personal benefits of volunteering.
Claire says: “Every day, we see how much individuals gain from giving their time to help others. Often people are looking for a way to give back to the community they live in but our volunteers, like Erica, also testify to how volunteering has improved their own wellbeing.”
The church and charity lists volunteering vacancies on its website but people can also contact their local Salvation Army to see how they can get involved. While Christian faith motivates The Salvation Army to reach out to people in need and serve the community, volunteering opportunities are open to all - to people of all faiths and none.
Claire believes the skills and experience of volunteers like Erica are invaluable to the work of The Salvation Army.
She adds: “When people come to us in desperate need we help them overcome their problems and get their lives heading in the right direction. We do this by giving them unconditional love and support and by offering a range of services run by trained staff and volunteers.
“Very often, we can help when no one else can. We are a 'safety net' for people who fall through the gaps in society and the skills and experiences of our volunteers are absolutely vital to help us in this work.”
The Salvation Army run a host of volunteering opportunities from one off events to longer term commitments across Norfolk. To find out more please visit - https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/volunteer-for-us